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FC defense helps send Bulldogs to fifth straight loss

Posted: October 9, 2017 3:24 p.m.
Updated: October 10, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I/

CAMDEN TAILBACK JERICHO MURPHY is dragged down by four Fairfield Central defenders in first half action from Friday’s game in Winnsboro.

WINNSBORO --- After all the fireworks in this game a season ago, this one was a dud: And for Camden, in more ways than one.

A year removed from Fairfield Central’s 70-55 win over Camden in a night in which the two sides blew out their respective record books while combining for more nearly 1,400 yards in offense, FC had a relatively normal 377 yards in offense while bottling up the visiting Bulldogs to the tune of a 27-7 victory Friday night at W.K. McLendon Stadium.

Camden managed 168 yards in offense from 37 snaps. The yardage total was the Bulldogs’ lowest since being held to 117 in a 21-7 loss in Lancaster in 2015. 

The offensive woes included the visitors managing just 30 yards in 17 plays in a first half in which CHS ran the ball seven times for minus (-7) yards and did not get a first down until the final play of the second quarter in which running back Jericho Murphy turned a Bryce Jeffcoat screen pass into a 23-yard gain as the guests trailed, 13-0, at the break.

Two weeks after having given up 63 points in a 35-point loss at North Myrtle Beach, the Bulldogs tweaked things on defense. Running backs Lance McCray and Murphy got the starts at linebacker and safety, respectively. That unit played markedly better than they did at the beach two Fridays ago and, was light years better against the Griffins this time around.

Last year, FC tailback Tony Ruff ran roughshod over Camden to the tune of 392 yards and four touchdowns while Rod Edmonds went for 262 yards and a trip into the end zone. On Friday, Ruff had 125 yards in 23 carries along with a touchdown in each half while Edmonds had six yards on one carry.

“The defense played really well and we even created a turnover. We actually won the turnover battle, 1-0, which was better than it has been,” said first-year CHS head coach Brian Rimpf.

“They had a fake punt in the second half which helped give them a touchdown which matched our touchdown. We had a little momentum but weren’t able to (stop the fake punt.) They did enough to win, that’s for sure.”

In falling for the fifth straight game, Camden (1-6, 0-1 in Region 4-AAA) had just 38 yards on 18 carries against a Griffin defense which looked to take away the pass while forcing the Bulldogs to run the ball. Murphy, who did not have a carry in the first half, finished with a career-low 31 yards on four hauls. The hosts tackled Camden for zero yards or, loss of yardage 10 times.

“They have a good defense but running just (17) plays in one half isn’t good enough to win you football games,” Rimpf said. “On defense, they played physical and played their technique. Their defensive line was where they were supposed to be and in the gaps they were supposed to be in and their linebackers were there to make tackles.

“We had some unforced errors on our part that we can’t make and expect to beat a sound team. They just played good defense but we didn’t make enough plays on offense tonight.”

While Camden had five straight three and outs in the first half, the Griffins were able to score in their first possession with the hosts traveling better than 99 yards on a drive which started from inside the one when LaReik Briggs downed Bennett Caldwell’s 42-yard punt inside the FC one.

The hosts converted on three straight third down plays to keep the drive alive with tailback Jamond Jackson breaking loose for 18 on a third and one from his own 20. Ruff later went for 17 on third and a pair from the FC 47 and gained 11 on the next play. The senior would cap the exhausting 15-play march by going through the middle on a second and six from the nine in a series which ate up nearly six minutes of the game clock.

Murphy kept the deficit at 6-0 when he blocked Antonio Aguilera’s PAT try with 4:49 showing on the first quarter clock.

Camden appeared to be making headway late in the first stanza and was looking at a fourth and less than a yard from its own 43. But an illegal motion call led to Caldwell’s coming in to punt. This time, however, the rugby-style punter thought he had enough daylight to get the first down marker and he broke toward the right edge only to be dragged down at his own 38.

Two plays later --- after J.R. Edmonds made a one-handed snag of a throw from backup quarterback Jacob McManus for a gain of 33 yards ---, Jackson broke tackles along the line and went in for the five-yard touchdown run which was followed by Aguilera’s kick for the 13-0 lead at the 11:34 mark of the second quarter.

Caldwell’s right leg kept the Griffins pinned deep in their own territory as he averaged nearly 40 yards per punt including a 55-yard bomb in the second quarter.

The Camden defense, which came into the game with just one interception on the season, received another from McCray, who picked off a McManus pass at the Bulldogs 15 on the next-to-last play of the first half to squash a Griffin scoring threat.

McCray ran the ball three times in the first half while Murphy did not touch the ball on offense until his 23-yard catch and run to his own 48 as the first half horn sounded. The pair combined for just 29 rushing yards on seven carries.

Rimpf later said that he and his staff did not feel playing the two senior tailbacks on both sides of the ball took anything out of them on offense.

“We have to get Jericho the ball more. We have to get Lance the ball more,” he said of his team’s two top options in the ground game. “With Shymeik Corbett and Deldrik Jones, we feel like we have enough running backs to move the ball on offense but we just weren’t able to do it tonight.”

Camden’s offensive woes continued into the second half with another three and out leading to a punt which set the hosts up at the Bulldogs’ 46. Again converting on a pair of third down plays --- of which FC did nine times in 13 tries ---, Ruff went around right tackle and into the end zone from 16 yards away to hike the lead to 20-0 with 3:18 remaining in the third.

The Bulldogs’ stretch of offensive hardships came to an end on their eighth offensive series which started at their own 34 following the ensuing kickoff.

An eight-yard Jeffcoat scamper had another 15 yards tacked onto it due to a late hit out of bounds to move the ball into FC territory at the 43. Briggs then made a sliding grab of a Jeffcoat pass for a gain of 18 to the 17. Murphy broke the Griffins’ shutout bid when he took a pitch and went around left end, breaking tackles along the way, as he scored from 17 yards out on a third and two call. Caldwell’s kick made it 20-7 with 1:13 left in the third.

The backbreaker as to any thoughts Camden harbored of mounting a come-from-behind win were dashed when, on a fourth and two from the Bulldogs’ 41, Jackson --- the up-man on the punt formation ---, took the snap and went for 23 yards to extend an 11-play, 65-yard scoring drive which ended with an eight-yard Dorian Glenn scoring run with 6:55 left in the contest.

Camden threatened on two more occasions; coming up well short on a fourth and 22 trick play from the FC 28 before ending the contest with Jeffcoat being sacked for a loss of 15 yards on fourth and one from the five as the horn blew to end the night.

Having tried to plug holes on defense for the better part of the past three seasons, Camden improved on that side of the football against the Griffins, who went to 2-0 in conference play. Now, the Bulldogs have to find a way to re-charge an offense which struggled with consistency on this night.

“I am proud of our defense. I thought our defense played well,” Rimpf said. “We had a lot of guys who really contributed there tonight. Jericho Murphy played on defense for the first time this year and had a heck of a game. I’ll have to look at it on film but I thought he played a heck of a game.

“They didn’t have any big plays against us, which was something we stressed all week in practice. They were able to be consistent and had long drives. I was proud of the defensive effort but we have to get better, though.”

Camden returns home to Zemp Stadium for the first time since a loss to Cheraw on Sept.8 when Chester comes to town for Homecoming. Now that the defense is playing better, Rimpf said it is time for his team to put all facets of the game together against a Cyclone squad which is 2-0 in 4-AAA play.

“We did feel good about our defense, we just didn’t do enough on offense,” Rimpf said. “Going forward, we have three region games left with Chester being the first one, which will be a good test for us. If we can get this win against Chester, we feel pretty god about getting the second seed from our region for the playoffs which is crazy when you look at our overall record and some of the games we’ve played. But we still have a shot for the number two seed which is something we have to work at this week and do our best to make that happen at Zemp (this) Friday.”

 

Bulldog Bites: Jeffcoat completed 11 of his 18 pass attempts for 126 yards while Campbell Jordan was 2-for-2 passing for four yards and all but 38 of Camden’s offensive yards … Murphy, who ran for 31 yards on just four carries, had six catches for 86 yards … Fairfield Central’s 377 yards in offense included 247 on the ground from 46 carries … McManus, a junior whose brother Stanley was the starting quarterback for FC last season, completed 11 of 18 pass attempts for 130 yards with an interception … Caldwell’s 55-yard punt was the longest for CHS since Parker Rankin hit a 59-yarder against West Florence in 2015 … FC won virtually every statistical battle including first downs (19-8), third down conversions (9-13 to Camden’s 1-8) and fourth down conversions (2-3 to Camden’s 1-3) … With the Griffins coming into the contest with a 4-3 record, the crowd at W.K. McLendon Stadium was smaller and much more reserved than is the usual scene in Winnsboro for an FC home game.

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